Income Management under the Intervention

My blog has plenty of links to “The Intervention” or the Northern Territory Emergency Response as the government would like it called.

To implement the Intervention the Racial Discrimination Act had to be suspended. One of the paternalistic programs was the Basics Card and Income management. Pretty much a modern day ration card to use at an EFTPOS machine on checkout. I’ve written about it before.

One of the aims of this program was to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables at remote stores. The government relying on interviews with shop managers said it worked. The only scientific study to be done says it failed miserably.

However the government wants it to continue. But it was under pressure nationally and internationally to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act. To do this they are bringing in Income Management to everyone on government benefits. And boy did that create a row. So there’s an opt out. If you can show you can manage your income.

That should be easy. An aboriginal person wanting some self determination should just walk into a Centrelink office and be respected and listened to and have their benefits restored.

Ok, I was dreaming just then.

The truth seems to be a million miles from what it should and needs to be. Unless you are articulate and be prepared to argue and be prepared to be shamed by Centrelink staff talking about your “vulnerability” it looks like it just won’t happen.

Crikey.com.au on the 20th September had a first hand account of the difficulties of removing yourself from mandatory Income Management if you are an Indigenous Australian in the Northern Territory. I urge you to read it here

Indigenous Child Anaemia and the Intervention

The anaemia rate of aboriginal children in the region had nearly trebled in two years according to figures produced by Sunrise Health Service in an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald. The last eighteen months of data collection were during the “intervention“.

If this is the case it reflects very poorly on the Intervention (now called the Northern Territory Emergency Response) as it was originally all about saving the kids.

But this may not be the case across all of remote Northern Territory. The ABC has Dr John Boffa from Congress (and an advisor to AMSANT) quoting data from the ‘Growth Assessment and Action Database’ which collects data on Aboriginal children from across the Territory. The data showed that across the Territory until April 2008 the anaemia rates for children had not changed and were remaining steady at 25%. Note this data is six months older than the data produced by Sunrise.

This figure of 25% is disturbing in itself. Even worse is the first year of the intervention was spent collecting all this data again, despite it already existing. They could have actually been helping kids and families. Two years in to the intervention and they are only now realising that they have a snowball’s chance in hell of providing some of the extra services required.

John Boffa says “local data needs to be analysed carefully”. There may well be valid reasons why a large area is suffering. It may be the shops not providing good food or the Basics Card (quarantined money used only for food. Money is obtained using a swipe card in selected stores) not working.

This trebling in anaemia needs to be investigated and extra resources provided long term in most areas to educate and constantly represent and work with families to correct it, and also to set up systems to prevent it. However that requires will. I am unsure that exists at a government level despite the nice words.

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